How does it feel to be an international sportswoman?
“It’s a complete privilege, very few people get the chance to say they have played for their country, if I’m honest its still rather surreal! Obviously, my life has changed a lot in the last year but I’ve tried to take the changes in my stride as best I can, I definitely require a lot more forward planning in both day-to-day life and longer term. Trying to juggle a PhD, University rugby, DMP Sharks, England and a social life I’ve learned is a fine art but one I’m getting better at.”
What was training for the national team like? Was it a significant step up from the training you are used to at Durham?
“Camps are always very intense – not just physically but mentally too. As I’m still relatively new to the sport I’m trying to absorb as much technical knowledge as possible and learn from all these women that have been at the top of their game for a number of years. Training with the likes of prop Rocky Clarke who won her hundredth cap against France at the end of the Six Nations is a truly incredible experience. It’s a big leap from University rugby where as 1st team captain I try to lead from the front and feed my rugby experiences to those that are at the beginning of their playing careers. Training and playing with Sharks has helped that transition as we have the likes of Tamara Taylor and Katy McLean in the team.”
Who were the best team you played against in the Six Nations? Best player you played against?
“I only played in the Scotland game (where I won my first cap); I was in the squad that went to Ireland but didn’t get any pitch time in what was an incredibly tough game. Sitting on the bench you can really appreciate how well-drilled Ireland (the Six Nations winners) are; they are always tough opposition and that was reflected in the score line.”
What are your future aspirations with the England team?
“At the moment, I hope to continue learning and get more caps under my belt. Front row is a position where you get better with age as there is such a plethora of technical ability you have to learn and perfect. In front row terms I’m still young, so of course I’m looking up to the senior England players and hope to follow in their footsteps. Competition in the squad as you’d expect is strong but it lifts everyone as you are trying to improve as a team for the next game but at the same time fight for that white shirt; we have 52 players in the EPS squad (although this includes the 7s girls) and a match day squad of 23.”
What’s your ultimate ambition in the sport? Do you view rugby as a viable career option or as a hobby?
“Degree aside, I’m hoping that I can continue to develop as a player through England training and bring that experience onto the pitch with DMP Sharks and also back through to DUWRFC. Then I want to pass on the coaching that I have had and support a lot of new players that we have already and continue to keep the squad strong.”
How did Durham help in your development as a rugby player?
“Durham has formed me into the player I am now. Without the feedback and coaching I received in my first year of playing, I wouldn’t have made it into the England pathway. In addition, the club environment is a very important part – I enjoyed my experience playing Hill vs Bailey and then BUCS 7s in my third year to the extent that I decided to stay in Durham to do Masters and have a proper go at rugby. DUWRFC continues to provide me with new challenges today and I would be truly lost without the club. Support from the club meant I had the confidence to go down to my first DMP Sharks training session, go for North Academy trials and eventually end up where I am today.”
What do you think of the standard of university rugby? Do you feel more should be done to encourage women to get involved in the sport?
“Our Durham coach Cameron Henderson told us there used to be a time when we struggled to get a first XV each week. If you look now, DUWRFC has two full squads competing every Wednesday. I think the 1st XV winning the Northern Premiership for the first time in our club’s history is testament to the club’s development having started in a local league!” I think the publicity of the women’s game recently has been incredible off the back of the World Cup and I think the number of people getting involved will just keep snowballing.”
Finally, do you have a message to DUWRFC for the future?
“DUWRFC’s future is very exciting. We need to continue to bring in new players, develop and integrate them into the club. We have had a number of girls come from having played little to no rugby and the club has catapulted them onto playing for our 2nd team, 1st team, county, regional and international rugby. Being part of this club has really changed my life and I just want that to be a possibility for many more students at Durham, because although it sounds clichéd, DUWRFC is not just being part of a club, it really is a family; you gain memories and friends that you’ll have for life.”